Title: Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice - General
Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and
Gabrielle fanfiction, Xena fiction
Xena and the gang aren’t mine. They belong to
MCA/Universal/Studio USA and a bunch of other folks who now
own them like Ren Pics. I’m just borrowing them.
Note: It’s my first foray into the general fiction genre so be gentle on me
(VBG). There are two versions of this story – one is general, one is alternative.
This version is the general version.
warrior and the bard go home for the holidays.
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice - General
know who to curse - Xena’s mother for the invitation or Xena
for agreeing to go along with it. She wondered silently if
insanity was just something that ran in Xena’s blood or if
it was a learned behavior. In any event, Gabrielle sat at the
bar of Cyrene’s tavern drumming her fingers nervously.
uptight dear," Cyrene mentioned as she set a serving tray
down. She ran a palm over the back of Gabrielle’s head in a
very maternal fashion.
Gabrielle smiled at
the gesture. The warrior amazon had come to love Xena’s
mother as if she were her own. Both seemed to have a profound
respect for the other and in certain terms a protective
nature. Gabrielle knew she would see harm come to herself
before she let it befall Cyrene and vice versa.
I guess," the bard answered, rolling her shoulders to
release her growing tension. "My family... "
Gabrielle trailed off unable to find the right words to
properly describe her family. She didn’t have to continue.
Cyrene finished her statement.
is as welcome here as you are sweetie so just relax."
again. "Thank you Cyrene."
needed," the woman answered. "If anyone should be
giving thanks it’s me. My daughter came back years ago and
claimed she’d amended her ways. I don’t think she’s
still be on the straight and narrow without you... And
since you do have this power," the woman grinned
devilishly. "I’m sure your family is to thank. They
raised a wonderful person." With that Cyrene tousled
Gabrielle’s hair and made her way to the kitchen.
She crossed paths
with Xena on her way to the back, but mother and daughter said
nothing to each other. Xena, with cherry pie in hand, took a
seat next to her traveling companion. Night had fallen hours
ago and Xena looked around the empty tavern.
still not here yet, huh?" Xena asked before taking an
enormous bite of the pastry.
Gabrielle did a
brief double take and released a small chuckle.
was the filled mouth response of the warrior.
to smile. "Please don’t talk with your mouth full.
It’s so unbecoming," she chuckled. "I knew you had
a big mouth," Gabrielle teased knowing the warrior
couldn’t reply at the moment. "I just never realized it
was THAT big."
Xena gave a fake
smile, making sure to keep her mouth closed in the process.
She held her finger up to make Gabrielle wait for her reply as
she continued chewing.
"Sorry Xena." Gabrielle grinned as she hopped from the barstool.
"I think I heard your mother call me."
Xena shook her head
furiously. Both women knew very well that not a peep was made
from the kitchen and Gabrielle was traveling to escape any
retort Xena might throw at her. The amazon, however, didn’t
get very far. From across the room, she saw the figures of her
mother and her sister, looking cautiously around them,
searching for her she assumed.
When all parties
locked eyes they all smiled their greetings. Xena chewed twice
as fast and took a huge swallow of goat’s milk to wash it
down. Quickly she wiped her face and traveled to the entrance
where Gabrielle was already standing, embracing her family.
Lila," Xena said with a nod of respect as she walked
over. "Did Herodotus come with you?"
Hecuba answered. "He’s tending to the horse and
him a hand," Xena answered going to the rack for her
cloak. Cyrene came from the kitchen at that moment and Xena
announced her plans, along with asking Gabrielle to do the
introductions. The bard of course agreed as Xena stepped out
into the night’s cold.
"Mom, this is
Cyrene. She runs the local inn and tavern here. Cyrene this is
my mom Hecuba and... well you’ve already met my sister
They all embraced
warmly and Gabrielle let out a small sigh of relief. So far so
good, the amazon mused.
to meet you," Cyrene told Hecuba. A moment later she
turned to Lila. "You’re looking well. It’s good to
see you again – Come in! Come in!" Cyrene said leading
them further inside the quiet emptiness of the tavern. Cyrene
had closed up early tonight since the holiday was approaching.
Besides most folks were with their families anyway for
Solstice Eve so it wasn’t going to hurt business.
hungry?" she asked the pair.
little," Lila nodded shyly.
Cyrene led them to
a table and announced she would be back soon. "Can you
give me a hand, Gabrielle?" she asked the amazon.
hear the question at first, but agreed and followed Cyrene.
Food, for once was the last thing on her mind. She was
wondering just what was taking so long outside. Dad and Xena
together for any extended period of time could not be a good
thing. But she didn’t dwell on it too much since she had her
family to ‘entertain’.
Xena watched as
Herodotus unfastened the cart from the steed and she made her
presence known as not to startle him. "How was the trip
in?" she asked conversationally.
Oh, boy Xena sighed
to herself. Herodotus was a man of few words except when he
was upset. In fact she was surprised that he and Hecuba even
made the trip. Last time Joxer accompanied Lila to Amphipolis
for Gabrielle’s birthday party. They all had a wonderful
time and when Cyrene suggested spending Solstice together Xena
looked forward to it. But as this conversation was proving
perhaps things weren’t going to be as rosy with
Gabrielle’s folks present.
Xena pushed her
negative thoughts away and she went to work on the harness,
freeing the horse. "There ya go," she said stroking
the animal and giving a few light pats. "Bet that feels
better huh?" Xena smiled naturally at the horse and
turned to find a very stern looking father examining her.
"Well," she said addressing Herodotus, "perhaps
we should just go inside now. It’s not getting any warmer
Of course Xena felt
herself sweating at this point under the man’s steely gaze, but he didn’t have to know that. She absolutely hated having
to be the one to initiate conversation, but she knew that there
would be a huge gap of silence between them if she didn’t
speak. And that fate seemed far worse than making small talk.
They walked in
silence to the tavern where all the women were gathered at a
table conversing. Gabrielle and Cyrene both rose going over to
the door. Xena noticed the beam that came to Herodotus’s
face when he saw his daughter rushing toward him.
how’s my little girl?" he exclaimed, pulling Gabrielle
into a tight embrace.
Xena had to smile
too. Although she was certain the man would hate her until the
day she died, she was also certain that this man loved his
daughter very much. His malice toward the warrior was out of
his concern for Gabrielle’s safety. That knowledge made all
the difference to Xena.
the amazon argued with an affectionate grin, "How many
times do I have to tell you? I’m not a little girl."
are," Cyrene answered as she stoked her own daughters
arm. "No matter how big you get you’ll always be
little," she added briefly looking up at Xena. Quickly
she turned to Herodotus. "I’m Cyrene," she said
extending her hand.
he nodded firmly. The smile he had for Gabrielle had vanished
as quickly as it came when his eyes turned to Cyrene. Xena
tensed in an instant. His opinion of her was one thing, but if
he was going to make her mother’s life difficult that was
something else. Cyrene was not oblivious to the tension that
surrounded the small group. The tension was short lived when a
commotion at the door made them all turn.
because YOU are an idiot!"
"It’s not my
fault the map got misplaced."
"Who had it
last Plato? Huh? Who?"
you saw me have it last does not mean that I’m the one who
had it last."
The man sighed
heavily. "Just once it would be nice if Athena could
grant you the ability to see how ignorant you sound."
solstice to you two," Gabrielle said breaking up the
bickering twosome. "I see goodwill toward our fellow man
is getting a work out tonight."
Gabby," Joxer replied. He couldn’t help, but have a
sappy grin on his face as she pulled him down for a kiss on
the cheek. Blushing he noticed that the room was filled with
"Oh fine. Kiss
him," whined Autolycus. "What am I chopped pig
and Autolycus’ offended façade fell as he met her with a
grin of his own. "Of course not," Gabrielle said
planting a firm smooch on his cheek. "Happy?" she
he replied stressing the syllables. "But not as happy as
I would be if I got a kiss from tall, dark and dangerous over
there," he said pointing in Xena’s direction.
Xena strolled over.
"I warned you Autolycus. Ya gotta quit hittin’ on my
They smiled as they
embraced and as she pulled back she gave Joxer a chuck on the
shoulder as Gabby led him and her father to the table of
"But it’s so
much fun... and you know what they say about older women
that?" Xena said playing dumb. She was sure Autolycus
would make some remark about sexual prowess or something along
those lines. She grinned as he turned a bright shade of red
when Cyrene came over.
Cyrene prodded. "Let’s hear what they say."
like mother," Autolycus mumbled. He looked over
Cyrene’s shoulder to the table behind them. "Oh my! Is
that cherry pie?! It looks delicious. Excuse me."
Xena drawled as she watched Autolycus slip between them,
heading to the table.
Cyrene chuckled and
shook her head. "That man is something else. He’s
arrogant, handsome and smart-assed... But underneath it
all, he has a good heart... He’d be perfect for you
Xena coughed to get
her breath after hearing that proposal. "Perhaps, but
I’m sure at some point between the honeymoon and the first
anniversary I’d end up choking him to death," the
Xena wrapped her
arm around her mother’s shoulder and Cyrene’s arm around
her daughter’s waist. The two women, joined at the hip,
headed back to their table of family and friends.
Hours later the
food was all, but devoured. All that remained were a few bones
and bits of piecrust. Everyone at the table wore smiles –
everyone except Herodotus that was. His wife had sensed it all
evening and as the conversation died down she asked what was
he replied stone faced.
on," she said lightly nudging him with a shoulder.
"Relax and have fun."
like some more wine?" Cyrene asked, offering the bottle.
replied meeting Cyrene’s eyes. "What I would like... " he paused as if to get his bearing or perhaps to make
the room stop spinning. Everyone had enjoyed more than their
fair share of drinks and spirits that evening. Soon he managed
to continue. "What I’d like to know is how you managed
to raise a, butcher."
The room fell
silent. Xena was well aware of the opinion Herodotus held of
her, but to have him actually say it out loud, in front of all
their family and friends was something she didn’t expect. It
was more than anyone expected given the silence that settled
in the house.
me?" Cyrene answered. It was all she could come up with.
Hecuba chastised in a soft tone.
replied to his wife loudly... and getting louder as he
continued. "I wanna know how such a woman can raise a
child into a blood thirsty killer!"
Cyrene grinned. And
the bard tensed even more than she already was. She had seen
that very same grin many times on the face of her companion.
And it never meant anything positive.
"Well, I could
counter that and ask how someone as ill-mannered and
self-righteous could raise a child, two children, who are very
caring and selfless," Cyrene said starting to lean over
the table toward him. "I could," she said, keeping
that grin in place. "But that would be
something?" Herodotus said rising up from the table.
that?" Cyrene said not backing down from the challenge,
their voices anything, but friendly at the moment.
think that everything is just perfect since your ‘spawn’
decided to be a hero instead of destroying lives... "
Please sit down," Hecuba pleaded.
wife!," he said to Hecuba, not taking his eyes from
Cyrene. "That might be okay with you. But that’s not
okay with me," he menaced continuing his conversation
All eyes shifted to
Hecuba as she shot up from the table. "Don’t you stand
there and ‘No wife’ ME! You will sit your ass down now and
shut the Tartarus up! No one wants to hear your drunken
ramblings, least of all me!"
don’t have to stay here. I’ll go to the local inn!"
the local inn," Hecuba challenged. "Ohhh... would
you please quit acting like a horses ass and just go to bed
and sleep it off?!"
Nobody made a
sound. Nobody even breathed. Quietly everyone watched as
Herodotus took a key from the table and made his way back to
the room. Hecuba sat down only when Herodotus was out of sight
and she heard the door close down the hall.
"I am so sorry
Cyrene," she apologized for her husband. "He just
can be so stubborn. Once he’s made his mind up on something
it’s nearly impossible to talk any sense into him."
something about that sounding familiar. Her exclamation of
‘Ouch!’ got everyone’s attention and they watched as
Xena rubbed her side while Gabrielle took a sudden interest in
her fingernails foregoing any knowledge of what brought on the
your fault," Cyrene told her, placing a hand over
Hecuba’s hand to study the shaking woman. "Like you
said, let him sleep it off. Chances are he won’t even
remember this conversation," Cyrene chuckled.
will," Hecuba said, still mortified by her husbands
it’s not all bad," Cyrene offered. "Perhaps
getting some things off his chest will help."
Hecuba rolled her
eyes in reply.
say it," Gabrielle whispered in Xena’s ear.
you roll your eyes like her?"
erupted from the warrior and both mothers turned to their
off," they said in harmony. Both women looked at each
other and began to chuckle.
should separate them tonight," Cyrene offered.
"Nobody will be getting any sleep if they keep on
aggravating each other all night."
Gods," Hecuba sighed heavily – the sense of dread crept
into the words.
Cyrene asked concerned.
got to go into that room," she said. pointing toward
where her husband had just gone.
"Look, why don’t you stay in my room tonight? I’ve
got more than enough room. You two can discuss things in the
morning. Okay? After all that traveling you need a good nights
want to put you out-."
Cyrene said, leading Hecuba to her feet. "All the rooms
have two beds. I planned on the boys in one room, the girls in
another and Lila with me. Tonight Lila can just bunk with the
girls. I’m sure no one will mind."
with me," Lila said excitedly. "Besides it will give
Gabby and me a chance to catch up," she smiled. Of
course, ‘catch up’ was a euphuism for gossiping about the
tiff mom and dad just had. But that was pretty much a given to
everyone at the table and it didn’t really need to be said.
sure?" Hecuba asked.
we’re sure," Cyrene said taking Hecuba by the hand.
"Let’s all get some sleep, okay? We can clean up
Everyone agreed and
started to rise. Xena announced that she would see to the
lights and two by two everyone went to their rooms. Xena
turned after extinguishing the last lantern and nearly ran
sorry," the bard apologized. "I’m surprised you
didn’t sense me like usual," she teased.
"Yeah well... guess my minds on other things," she grinned for show.
it’s about the fight tonight-."
wanted to bring you pain," Xena answered. "And I
certainly didn’t want to be reason for your parents to
Gabrielle sighed. "You gotta understand something in my
family. Dad might be king of the castle, but Mom rules the
Xena scratched her
head. "What in Tartarus does that mean?"
"It means that Dad thinks he always gets his way, but if
the truth were told it’s actually Mom who does. She’s
pretty patient and she’ll put up with so much, but if things
get too far out of line look out... It’s not the first
fight I’ve seen. It won’t be the last... It’s kinda
like you and me sometimes. Sometimes we just don’t see eye
to eye and when one of us gets outta line sometimes we have to...
poke each other in place again."
emphasized the ‘poke’ by jabbing Xena in the ribs like she
had done earlier when the warrior felt compelled to comment on
the correlation between Gabrielle’s temperament and her
parents argument. "This too shall pass Xena," she
whispered and put her arm around the warrior. "So let's
not analyze it too much. Let’s just get some sleep,
Xena nodded and
yawned her agreement as they too headed to the sleeping
Xena was in the
living area wrapping Gabrielle’s solstice present when she
heard the tavern door open. Quiet footsteps approached and
Xena rose to meet them.
knew YOU’D be awake already," he said once Xena came
Xena rushed over
with open arms. "Oh Gods it’s good to see you
again," she said as they embraced. "You look
well," she smiled sincerely.
sis," Toris replied. "Mom up?"
up. Just you and me."
"And me... barely." A voice called from the banister, stifling a
Toris looked. Then
looked again. "Gabrielle?" he asked in astonishment.
If it weren’t for
that smile he probably wouldn’t have noticed it was the
amazon. She looked so different, so mature, so... what was
the proper word?... sexy! Xena noticed Toris’ admiration
immediately and had to smile. It appeared another one had
fallen for the bard.
warmly and walked over to him giving him a hug, which he
happily received. "How have you been Toris?"
He realized she had
asked a question, but he hadn’t answer. He felt the blood
rise to his cheeks in his embarrassment. "Fine," he
replied quickly. "Just fine... Gods Gabrielle – you
look so different from the last time I saw you. I mean you
look beautiful now. Not that you weren’t beautiful before
because you were. It’s just-."
what?" Xena teased. She could see her brother was
fumbling for the right words and she wasn’t going to make
this easy on him. Besides that’s what big sisters were for
– to intimidate and provoke. "Come on," Xena
nudged. "Out with it."
aren’t helping me any here," he replied flustered.
"Yeah I know." The warrior grinned devilishly. "That’s the
Toris laughed at
his sister. The woman was never easy on him so why should she
start now. With that a thought occurred to him. "In the
spirit of Solstice," Toris said putting his arm around
his sister, "perhaps you can cut me some slack?"
dream of it bro’," she answered with a twinkle in her
Xena," the bard chastised playfully. "Give Toris a
break. It’s been a long time since he’s been home."
Toris spoke up. "Like she said," he replied pointing
Okay," Xena answered nodding her head. "For her sake
I will," she smiled affectionately at the amazon.
"But you," she said turning to Toris, "No
"Hey, as long
as I get my way I’m happy," he answered. Toris made his
way to the kitchen. "I’m hungry," he replied
looking back at the two women. "Anyone else interested in
the amazon answered enthusiastically.
Xena smiled at the
bards replied and offered a ‘No. Thanks.’ The smile turned
into a chuckle when they both watched Toris slam into the wall
because he was admiring Gabrielle and not watching where he
was walking. With his face red once more he opened the
swinging door to his sanctuary of the vacant kitchen.
Gabrielle and Xena
chuckled as quietly as possible once he was out of sight.
"He’s not nearly as graceful as his sister," the
amazon remarked quietly.
"The power you
wield," Xena whispered in Gabrielle’s ear with a
"It’s not my
fault," Gabrielle countered.
"Oh no of
course not," Xena exaggerated. "You just stroll
downstairs in that little shift. Bat your eyelashes and give
"I was being
Xena drawled, rolling her eyes. "Well, try to be a little
less friendly next time. You might kill my brother with
shouldn’t go help him until I get dressed? Is that what
you’re saying?" Gabrielle replied with a sparkle in her
Xena chuckled. "At the rate he’s going he’s liable to
accidentally burn the place down."
Gabrielle said vamping her way up the stairs seductively,
"I have this power."
Xena laughed out
loud at the bard’s antics. "Go get dressed Taltaka,"
don’t ask me to lick your face later," the bard
chuckled. Gabrielle then wrinkled her nose and winked in
response before going up the steps double time. All Xena could
do was shake her head at the amazon’s frolicking nature. She
started to head back into the living area when she saw Hecuba
emerge from her mother’s room.
well?" Xena called up with a grin.
actually," she said as she made her way down.
you’re hungry." Xena said motioning to the bar.
"Have a seat and my brother will have some food for you
brother?" Hecuba questioned.
Xena answered. "He got in a few minutes ago. I’ll be
Gabrielle’s gift and put it under the Solstice tree for safe
keeping before returning to the tavern.
Xena asked walking behind the bar. Hecuba nodded. "Apple
Juice?" the warrior asked. Again Hecuba nodded with out
saying anything. Xena could feel the woman examining her
closely and the warrior ran her hand over her face
self-consciously. "Is there something on my cheek?"
Hecuba realized she
was staring at the warrior and her body did an automatic shake
in response. "No... Sorry. I was just thinking."
what?" Xena pried.
Okay. Now Xena had
to know. "What about me?" She approached the
question carefully. She didn’t know if she was up for round
two after the problems with Herodotus the night before.
"Do you love my daughter?"
Xena felt her
eyebrows shoot up. Boy! This was not a conversation she was
prepared for – especially not this early in the morning.
Reflexively she answered, "Yes. Very much so."
Hecuba nodded her understanding and sighed again. It seemed
like the woman was a bit surprised by the conversation as
well. When she didn’t add more, Xena continued with,
"Why do you ask?"
she’s in good hands," Hecuba answered and paused in
thought a moment. "Herodotus worries about her being on
the road, but... I think back to how you two meet. She
wasn’t safe in Potedaia that day was she?... I think
she’s made the right choice."
Xena’s mind screamed and she had to will her eyes to retract
back into her head before she could continue. Hecuba could see
by Xena’s physical demeanor the warrior caught off guard and
Xena chuckled and
held up her hand. "Hecuba, it’s okay," Xena began.
"I just... it’s that... ya see... "
With that Toris
walked out with some eggs for his new ‘sweetie’, but in her
place was an older woman chatting with his sister.
inwardly at the sight of her brother. "Toris!" she
said far to excitedly. He wondered just what she was up too.
"This is Hecuba, Gabrielle’s mother. Hecuba this is my
"Nice to meet
you," he said with a nod of his head. Xena snatched the
plate and turned to Toris. "Okay – you can go
now," she ordered quickly.
He was stopped in
mid-chuckle by his sister as she led him back to the kitchen.
She made sure to announce that he had to cook some more food.
Without putting up much of a fight he headed back, but just for
good measure Xena gave him an extra shove, sending him flying
through the door.
From the other side
of the closed door, a few pots and pans rattled as she ran her
palms across each other for a job well done.
you see that Hecuba," Xena said as the woman began to
eat. "Gabrielle... " Xena struggled to find the
right words while keeping a smile on her face. Hecuba beat her
to finishing her sentence.
"Is a special
woman?" she asked.
Xena sighed. The smile stayed glued in its place. "And
you should know it hasn’t always been easier for her living
life with me. But I realized what my priorities are now.
Seeing Gabrielle find her way in life is all that matters now...
because she helped me realize my way with her love and
patience... Some people in this world believe in saints.
People who are so filled with goodness that even after they
are gone their spirits still watch over those left on earth...
Gabrielle in my eyes is a saint already."
Xena shook her
head. ‘Did she just ask ‘How come’?’ She wasn’t sure
if she heard that correctly or not. "Excuse me?"
"I said how
come." Hecuba repeated.
the warrior began. She didn’t have the chance to finish the
statement. The amazon came bouncing back down the stairs for
some food she was promised.
Hecuba watched as
the warrior stilled and became silent at the bard’s
approach. "We’ll continue this later," Hecuba
whispered with a sly grin and a wink. She could tell the
warrior didn’t want to discuss this in Gabrielle’s
presence for some reason.
Xena chuckled in
misery. That’s all she needed. The threat of a sensitive
chat with Hecuba - concerning her daughter, their life
together, and gods knows what else the woman could throw in
there – was hanging over her head. Perhaps Gabrielle was
being honest when she said weeks earlier ‘Are you sure this
holiday thing is a good idea?’. It was too late now though
and Xena just sat behind the bar drinking her apple juice.
"Is it safe
for me to come out again?" Toris called from the kitchen.
talking about?" Gabrielle chuckled.
Xena and Hecuba
both gave a speedy, "Nothing" reply before Xena gave
her approval. Toris walked out with two more plates of food.
"For you my
lady," he flirted as he put the plate down in front of
Gabrielle. The amazon smiled and thanked him for his effort.
Xena stifled a
growl she could feel brewing deep within her. ‘And since
when did he get so feely? He’s touched her hands twice
already... And that laugh? He sounds like a horny teenager
hoping to cop a feel. That’s it!’. Xena’s protective
nature concerning the amazon reared its head once more. She
had to find a way to stop him without hurting him.
Toris exclaimed. "That’s my breakfast!"
offered," Xena said starting to eat his eggs. "I got
hungry," she grinned. "If you want more the kitchen
is that way," Xena pointed. She was all smiles and no one
at the bar was none the wiser to her actions to get Toris out
of the picture.
he said throwing his napkin. "But tomorrow morning YOU
"I don’t think you wanna do that Toris. I’ve tasted
Xena’s eggs... well I THINK they were eggs. She claimed
they were eggs. But in my opinion they didn’t resemble
"I think we
get the point," Xena interrupted. "I can’t cook,
okay? Is that a crime?"
provinces it could be," Gabrielle teased. "Death by
"Ha Ha. Very
funny... Eat your eggs," Xena ordered with a grin.
dear," the bard teased. She elbowed her mother and added,
"I just let her think she gets her way," she
whispered,, but making it obvious she wanted Xena to hear her.
that," Xena countered.
"I know." The bard smiled before stuffing her face some more.
"Boy o boy!
Something smells good down there," Joxer commented as he
stretched and yawned at the top of the stairs. He made his way
to the bar to join the others when Toris walked out with
Eggs!" Joxer exclaimed. "Can I have some?"
Toris had his fork
in hand. His mouth open. But instead he rolled his eyes and
slid the plate over to Joxer. Shoulders slumped he walked back
into the kitchen to once again to try to make something for
breakfast. When the door finally quit swinging back and forth,
the three women had to laugh.
"I don’t get
it," Joxer said looking at them and then at the plate in
front of him.
dear," Hecuba answered patting his arm. "Hey Xena do
you have a water skin back there?"
Xena looked behind
the bar and handed it over. Hecuba took it and shook it.
‘Not too full. Not too empty. Juuuuust right.’
"What are you
doing?" Gabrielle asked.
Hecuba climbed off
the barstool. "Time to wake your father," she
answered, slinging it over her shoulder.
The two women
watched wordlessly as she climbed the stair and crept into the
closed bedroom. Moments later they heard a deep shrill of a
man who was obvious caught off guard. Their laughter floated
up to Hecuba’s ears as she stood over her husband with a now
empty water skin.
and spat after the initial shock wore off.
shine, dear," Hecuba replied as loud as she could without
actually yelling. She tossed the water skin on the bed with a
careful fling, narrowly missing his head. "You have to
get up and face a room full of people who watched you make a
total ass of yourself last night."
and held his temples. "Oh Gods," he muttered.
"The Gods have
nothing to do with this," she prodded. "Do you have
any recollection of what happened last night?"
He continued to
squeeze his head with his fingertips as he concentrated. By
the look of sheer grief and terror that soon filled his eyes
Hecuba realized her husband understood just what she was
talking about. All she could do was shake her head as she
plopped down at the end of the feather mattress. Hecuba
released a deep sigh when he still hadn’t spoken after a few
should apologize, huh?" he said trying to move from the
Hecuba said much to his surprise. "Not unless you mean
it." Herodotus thought for a moment. He could say he was
sorry, but he knew that was a lie. ‘But what other options do
I have?" he wondered. Hecuba sensed his ambivalence.
"Find a way to work through your harsh feelings,"
Hecuba replied, almost as if she could read his mind. "I
know you love Gabrielle. I know you have contempt for Xena.
But please don’t hurt her family as a result. Our daughter
is a grown woman now Herodotus. She’s made her choice and I
a cold blooded murderer. She’s-
care of our daughter," Hecuba pointed out. "Would
you rather see Gabrielle live out her life with a husband who
doesn’t appreciate her gifts? A man who wants to suck the
creativity out of her, forcing her to live by his rules?"
Hecuba paused and waited for him to answer.
admitted. "I wouldn’t."
Hecuba moved to sit
next to her husband, taking his hand. "We taught our
girls that they could be anything they wanted in life. But one
thing had to be consistent. They had to be a good person.
Gabrielle is a good person and she wouldn’t chose living
with Xena if she didn’t feel that warrior downstairs was a
good person too... I’m asking you Herodotus. Trust
Gabrielle’s judgement on this... Please."
about it," he considered. It wasn’t much, but it was a
start. "And I’ll apologize to Cyrene for the things I
said... She’s been hospitable by inviting us into her
home. Well, actually it’s a bar... no wonder that warrior
grew up the way she did."
Hecuba sighed and
rolled her eyes. It would be a long road ahead before
Herodotus would accept Xena. "Well, try not to mention
that last part in your apology dear," Hecuba teased her
husband. "I think it will make you sound insincere,"
she added with a knowing grin.
about it a moment. "Alright," he finally answered.
"I’ll give my thanks and leave it at that.
"How ever it
has to be," Hecuba smiled. "For now get downstairs
and grab some breakfast. You’ve got a turkey to track down
‘How could I
forget?’ Herodotus thought silently. ‘Me, a thief, an
idiot and a murderer. This should be interesting.’
"Okay," he sighed, knowing what lay ahead. How
Gabrielle came to know any of these people eluded him. He just
stayed firm to the belief that ignorance could be bliss and
perhaps it’s best if he didn’t know. "I’ll be down
in a few minutes."
Hecuba nodded her
agreement and went to the door. "Ya know," she said
before leaving, "underneath that tough exterior lies a
very caring man... I love you husband," she smiled.
couldn’t help, but grin back at her. "Love you too
And with that
Hecuba winked and she made her way downstairs.
that not only did the list include all the folks he met last
night, but also the murderer’s brother – he wasn’t sure
what to make of the young man, but the long hair didn’t sit
well with him. Last thing he needed on the hunt was a sissy
broke up Herodotus’s rambling thoughts as the five of them
trampled through the woods. "So WARRIOR PRINCESS,"
he started in. Xena simply rolled her eyes to Toris and waited
for Joxer to continue. "If you’ve got many skills why
haven’t we seen a single bird out here huh?"
Autolycus interrupted, "it’s the fact that between your
big mouth and big stumbling feet you’ve managed to scare any
game within a 10 league radius away?"
Xena was on the
verge of telling them both to be quite, but Herodotus beat her
"If you both
could be quiet for just 10 minutes I’m sure we’ll find
something out here... If not we might be forced to cook you
Xena laughed out
loud. Herodotus made a ‘funny’. It was a side she never
saw until now. But when his steely eyes turned to her, she
shut up instantly and she realized perhaps that it wasn’t a
joke. Perhaps the man really could kill them. After all he had
threatened her with an ax last time they met face to face. Not
many people had done that and lived to tell about it. Then
again, Herodotus only did it to ‘protect his little girl’
so Xena made allowances for that fact.
Finally the troop
trekked along in silence and they saw a beauty of a bird.
Herodotus gave a call and the bird moved closer toward their
group. Xena had to smile as she watched Herodotus lead the
bird closer and closer to them. He might have been ‘just a
farmer’, but the man did have a skill, perhaps ‘many
skills’ that she didn’t recognize.
chakram Xena," Toris instructed. Xena reached to her
waist for the weapon, but Herodotus placed a hand on top of
hers stopping her movement.
Herodotus instructed. "If that bird ducks we go hungry.
We have to catch him first."
Xena agreed with a
slight nod and she went back to watching the drama unfold.
Closer and closer the unsuspecting bird came. Everyone stood
on tiptoes waiting for the word to pounce. Finally, when just
a few feet away Herodotus gave the signal. Xena could have
sworn the birds eyes literally popped out of his head when he
saw the five figures rushing him from the bushes.
First he ran toward
Joxer, but managed to dash between the man's legs. As an end
result, Joxer lost his balance and ended up face first on the
forest floor. Autolycus was laughing too hard at that point
and the bird breezed by him. Toris for his part managed to
catch a leg, but the bird proceed to peck repeatedly until he
was forced to let go.
That left only
Herodotus and Xena in the group to do battle with the dreaded
beast of solstice. Father and warrior chased for all they were
worth and Xena managed to tackle the bird until Herodotus got
Damn it!" Xena cursed as the bird now ‘bite’ into her
with sharp pecks to the hands and arms. "You liittle
bacchae!" Xena yelled at the turkey as warrior and
‘beast’ engaged in a ‘dance of death’. At the moment
it appeared that the bird was winning.
ax," Herodotus yelled. By this time Joxer had gotten to
his feet and the group rushed over.
it," the ‘mighty’ one proclaimed started to raise the
the group yelled in unison. Joxer with an ax was the last
thing they needed. By this time, Herodotus was getting control
of the head, while Xena kept a firm grip on the body.
that," Toris said taking it out of Joxer’s hands.
"All set?" he asked the pair holding the bird down.
it!" Xena replied urgently. She wasn’t sure how much
longer she or Herodotus could hold on.
With a hardy swing
the ax the head was severed from the body. Herodotus and Xena
released their hold when the blood splattered both of them in
the face. A resounding ‘Ewwwwww’ noise went around the
group at the sight. Herodotus and Xena had both seen their
share of blood as farmer and warrior. And although they had to
clean themselves up both wore smiles for a job well done. And
the smile Herodotus gave Xena was one of camaraderie she never
expected to see.
The bird ran around
headless for a few moments before falling to the ground and
everyone went over to inspect it. As Toris stuffed the bird
into the sack they had brought, Xena turned to pay a
compliment to Herodotus for his turkey hunting skills. But the
man looked very pale.
okay?" Xena asked.
he said brushing her off. "Just getting a little too old
to hunt wild turkeys I guess," her replied with a grin.
"Kinda hard to breathe."
back a bit, but Autolycus managed to steady him.
we all sit down and rest for a minute?" the king of
thieves suggested. He could tell Herodotus was a stubborn man
so he decided to include the WHOLE group as a means to get
Gabrielle’s father to rest.
picked up on Auto’s plan and was the first to take a seat.
"Come on," Xena said patting the ground. "Take
a load off for a job well done."
to do just that, but he ended up collapsing instead. Auto who
was inches away checked him, but he didn’t feel any pulse.
"Xena?" he said to the warrior who was now over the
unconscious man. The question was almost a plea. He didn’t
understand what had happened and worse he didn’t know how to
Xena felt for
herself. He wasn’t showing any signs of life. She pinched
his nose and started to blow air into his mouth. She gave his
chest a few hard pounds for good measure. Besides this always
worked when Gabrielle’s body had shut down. Why shouldn’t
it work for him as well she figured?
responding," Autolycus muttered after a few moments.
think I see that?" she snapped at the thief. "Come
on!" she yelled at Herodotus. "Don’t do this! Your
daughter will never have another Merry Solstice! Now come on
Xena went back to
work again as the group could do nothing, but look on. Xena was
about to deliver another blow to the chest when the man’s
eyes shot open and he gulped a huge gasp of air.
A collective sigh
went around the small clearing. Xena smiled down at the man
who Autolycus was now helping to cradle. "Welcome
back," she greeted.
happened?" he asked, moving to a sitting position.
turkey got the best of ya," Xena smiled. "Joxer, go
get Argo and bring her up this way. Herodotus is riding
Xena," the man answered gruffly. "I’ve got
got a heart that just tried to attack you. You’re riding and
"Who do you
think you are?" Herodotus challenged.
loves Gabrielle enough to see that her father makes it home
for Solstice. So I’ll ask... Are you someone who can put
their pride aside long enough to insure that happens?"
Xena’s words were direct, but she kept a grin in place to let
the man know her demand was not out of anger, but out of
that what Xena said was true and nodded his agreement with a
small grin of his own. "Thank you," he said
welcome," the warrior responded.
Back at the inn,
the girls were busing making all the ‘fixin’s’ for the
feast that was sure to happen in the next 24 hours. Solstice
evening always meant a ‘big meal’ in both families. The
women swapped their favorite recipes and helped each other in
the kitchen. Hecuba was surprised to learn that Cyrene had her
‘special instructions’ for nutbread when they first began
their cooking. After a moment of consideration she knew just
who could have spilled the beans and she shot an accusing look
over at her eldest daughter.
"What can I
say?" Gabrielle insisted. "She tortured me until I
told her," she chuckled.
right," Cyrene added, placing her arm around
Gabrielle’s waist. Quickly she administered a tickle
treatment that had the bard giggling like a young girl.
"The torture! The torture!" Cyrene added as the bard
squirmed until successfully getting away.
it!" Gabrielle said swatting at Cyrene as she made her
way to the water pail. "Lila?" she asked her sister,
"How about we leave these two to their cooking and
collect some water from the well."
Gabs!" was the enthusiastic response. As the sisters left
Hecuba made her way closer to Cyrene and bent down
the story?" Hecuba asked.
what?" Cyrene asked.
Hecuba nodded in the direction that the girls had left.
"You two seem... close."
the best," Cyrene beamed, still working on her piecrust.
She paused a moment, noticing the look in Hecuba’s eye. Was
it jealousy perhaps? She couldn’t tell, but she did know the
woman was unsettled by something. "Gabrielle is like a
daughter to me," she continued. "But I could never
take the place of her mother," she made sure to mention.
"Well, you see
her more than we do?" Hecuba replied.
looking for a fight, but she knew she had to say something or
live to regret it. "I think it has a lot to do with the
reaction she gets – that they both get – when they come to
Poteidaia," Cyrene answered. "I don’t think either
one of them feels too welcome. It wasn’t the best departure
Hecuba lowered her
head and thought back to when the bard first left. They were
so angry and hurt... and poor Perdicus – they had to
explain that Gabrielle chose gallivanting over the countryside
instead of a safe warm home with him.
Hecuba answered. "It wasn’t... But I’d like to see
this weekend they will," Cyrene added optimistically.
Hecuba steadied her
breath and gave a nod, "Perhaps you’re right," she
answered. "Perhaps you’re right," she answered
again, louder and with even more conviction.
Cyrene smiled and
switched the conversation; "How about we finish this pie
"Sound good to
me," Hecuba answered. And with that the women went to
Herodotus sat above
Argo, swaying with the horse’s steps. Xena kept a constant
eye on him to make sure he was all right atop the mare. Her
adrenaline rush from the events in the clearing was finally
starting to come down. She sighed softly, feeling fortunate
that things worked out for the best and that Herodotus
wasn’t too argumentative about riding her mare.
beautiful horse," she heard a voice say above her.
Xena felt her heart
momentarily stop. ‘Is he actually starting a conversation
with me? Perhaps when he fell he took a blow to the head,’
Xena considered. Instead of airing her thoughts out loud she
kept her reply simple.
"Yes she is
and she’s very smart." Xena paused a moment. "I
only wish she and Gabrielle got along better," she
too, which caused Xena to look up at the man. "Well, Gabby
and horses never mixed. She had a horse when she was
young," Herodotus began.
surprise showed on his face. "Yeah. How did you know
me," Xena smiled. "He used to peek his head into her
room," Xena laughed. It was almost as if the memory was
one of her very own. But Gabrielle was always very vivid in
he smiled. "He got sick one winter though. Had to put him
down... It broke her heart, but I didn’t have a choice. It
was better than letting him suffer," Herodotus said with
a touch of regret.
"I think you
do a lot of things out of love Herodotus," Xena
complimented. "It’s no secret how you feel about me.
It’s no secret how you feel about Gabrielle... You and I
are just at opposing ends it seems –, but all in all it’s
Gabrielle’s best interest we have at heart. We both want
what we think is best for her and neither one of us want to
see her hurt."
"Ya know warrior? For once I think I’ll have to agree
Gabrielle’s not here. She could document this historic
moment in her scrolls – the day her father and Xena saw eye
to eye," Xena jabbed lightly. She was relieved to see
that she hadn’t pushed her newfound bond with Herodotus too
far. He smiled his approval, but soon the merriment washed
away. ‘Damn it!’ Xena thought. ‘What now? We were doing
wrong?" she asked gingerly.
about Gabrielle here... I’m glad she wasn’t... Xena
when we get back would you please not say anything about what
happened in the clearing today?"
Herodotus then fell
silent and he waited for her reply. "I’ll talk to the
others and let them know to keep quite, but you gotta promise
me something, okay?"
"You have to
take it easy from now on. No heavy tasks on the farm. Either
you get help or you contact me and Gabrielle to help. That
means if the roof looks like it needs fixing you send a scroll
BEFORE it starts to leak," she grinned. Herodotus knew
despite the happy gesture that she was being quite serious.
he nodded with a smile of his own.
Xena mentioned looking over his shoulder. "When we get
back we’re going to take a pie to the town healer... with
it being solstice and all." She smirked.
demanding," he chuckled. "How does my daughter put
up with you?"
Xena laughed aloud.
"I’ve asked myself that very same questions many
times," she grinned. "So? Is it a deal?"
Xena’s eyes and for the first time he saw something besides
the ‘butcher’ he’d heard all the tales about. She’d
done horrible things. Of that he was sure..., but she was
also doing her best to make amends. He realized he could have
died in that clearing if she hadn’t ‘taken charge’ of
the incident. He also knew she was quite aware of how he felt
about her. But in light of that, she still did everything she
could to bring him back. Herodotus realized there were many
tales of the warrior princess and not all of them were
negative. Perhaps if he asked his daughter she would show him
a scroll or two tonight. He knew Xena waited for an answer so
he offered his forearm to the woman below him. As they grasped
and shook firmly he uttered his reply... "Deal."
silence settled between the two. Now, Xena could hear the
conversation in front of her as they all walked along. Joxer
and Toris were debating some issue. Xena focused closer and
realized it was the bard they were discussing.
"What are you
saying Toris? That you’re in love with Gabrielle?"
Xena recognized the
look on Joxer’s face. A mix of jealousy, anger and perhaps
pain. But she kept quiet and simply listened to the exchange.
Xena sighed, already seeing where this conversation was
headed. It was loud enough for Herodotus to notice. He asked
what was wrong, but Xena was listening for Toris’ answer.
sure it’s love... " Toris winked. " But I
wouldn’t mind a... ahem... night in the stables if you
know what I mean."
Joxer grabbed Toris
by the shirt and pushed him against the nearest tree. Xena was
surprised by the move and dashed toward the two.
Gabrielle you’re talking about," Joxer warned. His
voice was low. The look in his eye was menacing. Xena was
always amazed at the power love had over someone. It could
turn the most timid lamb of a man into a lion with just a few
words – as this event was proving.
two," Xena said pushing them away from each other.
"We gotta get back."
distance didn’t stop them from getting into a typical
adolescent ‘can not/can too’ debate over who could win
Gabby’s heart. After a few moments Xena had heard enough.
both drop it?!" she ordered. "Argo here has a better
chance of winning Gabrielle’s hand than the two of you put
together so give it a rest!" Not wanting to debate it
anymore, Xena pulled Argo’s reins away from the group,
leading the horse and Herodotus forward.
right you know," he answered.
what?" Xena answered.
"About the two
of them," he smiled. When Xena turned to face the man he
winked at her and she had to smile. With all that had already
happened a rivalry over Gabrielle was the last thing she
wanted to deal with. ‘Gods give me strength to get through
this weekend,’ she thought to herself as she looked to the
heavens. Quietly they made their way home.
As soon as the
hunting party got in, Xena instructed Toris to see to Argo
while Autolycus and Joxer dealt with the bird. Xena promptly
took a pie from the kitchen and announced that she and
Herodotus would be back. Upon the healer’s exam, he told
Herodotus the same thing Xena had – rest was the best
medicine. Gabrielle wanted to know just where the pair had
gone and Xena told her they did some last minute solstice
shopping. It wasn’t an outright lie since Herodotus asked to
find something special for Cyrene for her hospitality. At this
point Xena was convinced that the man HAD hit his head and was
delusional. She considered taking him BACK to the healer for a
second opinion, but realized she liked ‘this’ Herodotus
That evening after
the feast was devoured, the group exchanged their gifts along
with kisses and hugs. Cyrene watched the evening unfold with
intense interest. All night long her daughter watched the
amazon and when Xena wasn’t looking, the amazon was in turn
watching her. There was no mistaken the bond that the two
women shared. Cyrene was grateful that Xena had found a
soulmate in Gabrielle. No one, she was sure, had filled that
place that Lyceus left and she gave a silent prayer that Xena
would never have to be without Gabrielle.
Cyrene called. "Can you give me a hand in the
The warrior started
to rise when Lila spoke up. "I’ll give you a hand
Cyrene," she said offering her services.
okay," Cyrene said rejecting her offer delicately.
"Besides it does my heart good to have my girl give me a
hand now and then." With a slight nod toward the kitchen
Cyrene made her way as Xena followed.
need?" the warrior asked.
"I need you to
give me a hand with the treats, but I also wanted to thank you
for coming home. I miss you little one," Cyrene
you too," Xena replied. "But we’ve been doing a
lot of traveling in the past year... Gabrielle needed
it." The warrior got a solemn look on her face as she
remembered all that happened to them. Cyrene knew bits and
pieces of their latest journey. She would ask what the look
meant, but in truth she was afraid to know. She knew Xena’s
life was a dangerous one – and although Xena was quite
capable of taking care of herself the warrior princess was
STILL her daughter.
event," Cyrene said breaking the bit of tension in the
kitchen, "I’m so glad you and Gabrielle came
"It’s had its moments," she remembered. "But
I’m glad too mom." The warrior leaned down and kissed
her mother tenderly on the cheek.
At that moment
Autolycus poked his head into the kitchen. "You got a
bard out here demanding sugar now. I think you better get her
what she wants or we’ll ALL pay a heavy price." With
that he vanished as quickly as he came.
Xena and Cyrene
chuckled as Cyrene handed Xena a platter of cookies.
"Your bard awaits," Cyrene winked.
"Yes and a
hungry bard is never a good thing," Xena laughed.
From the other side
she could hear the group beginning to shout ‘Cook-ies, cook-ies!’
over and over again.
out there," Xena smirked.
you’re going out first," Cyrene said, picking up a
platter for herself to carry and using her daughter as a
Everyone had a
glorious evening of unwrapping gifts, drinking cider and
sharing laughs. Cyrene thanked Herodotus for the cauldron he
gave her as a show of his gratefulness. Hecuba looked almost
as happy as Cyrene to see her husband make the gesture of good
will. But soon everyone was tired and went to their respective
Xena sat in her
shift, her legs spread out on her bed, back resting against
the headboard. She watched as Gabrielle readied herself for
again for the sharpening stone and polishing clothe," the
amazon told the warrior. "Now I won’t have to steal
yours," she teased.
Xena just grinned, but she could feel a lump in her throat and swallowed it down.
"Actually I got you two gifts," the warrior said
impulsively. She realized there was no turning back at this
point. She wasn’t sure how Gabrielle would receive the
second one. Would it make her smile or on some level cause her
Gabrielle whispered excitedly, giving up on brushing her short
blond locks. "Let’s see," she said taking a seat
at the foot of the warrior’s bed.
Xena rose and moved
to sit cross-legged in front of the amazon. With that Xena
reached under her bed and pulled out the gift she planned on
giving Gabrielle privately tonight. Gabrielle smiled and
accepted the gift with excited hands.
it?" the amazon asked.
it," Xena nodded toward the gift, giving permission.
the present with both her eyes and her hands – the hue of
the wrapping paper; the scratchiness of it. "Thank
you," Gabrielle said sincerely. She paused a moment and
then torn into the gift with such fury it made Xena was now
chuckling at the amazon. She said a silent prayer that
Gabrielle would always be in her life to make her smile.
Xena," the amazon sighed as she opened the box to revel a
bottle of ink, three quills and three rolls of parchment.
"I know you
haven’t done the bard thing too much recently. And I’m not
pressuring you to write, but I figured if you had something
nice to work with you might ‘find your muse’ again,"
the warrior answered. "The man at the shop said it’s
the best ink he’s ever seen and the quills will last twice
as long... Of course, I don’t know anything about writing
materials so I had to take his word for it." The warrior grinned nervously.
A sob of joy choked
Gabrielle’s throat and her ‘thank you’ came out like a
frog’s croak. She cleared her throat nervously and brought
Xena into a tight embrace. "I really love you, you know
that?" she said light heartedly.
"Yeah." The warrior grinned. "After all these years I kinda got
that impression." Both women smiled at each other, but a
look of deep sincerity washed over Xena’s face. "I love
you too," she added softly.
back and went into her saddlebag. When she returned to the
corner of the bed she had a small box in her hand that she
carefully placed in Xena’s lap.
Xena asked. Gabrielle mutely nodded. "Thank you,"
the warrior said as she opened the gift.
pulled it out examining it.
breast dagger," Gabrielle explained. "I looked over
six moons for a smithy who could make the design the way I
wanted. See?" Gabrielle said pointing out the handle.
"It’s got the royal amazon crests melded with the small
chakrams... I thought you might like it."
Xena spoke no
words. She simply leaned in and placed a tender kiss on the
bard’s cheek, which Gabrielle happily accepted. "It’s
mean you like it?" the amazon asked shyly, a bit
concerned with the answer she might receive. Gabrielle could
have swore she heard crickets chirp as she waited for an
Xena continued to
examine it. It was a true work of art. "Yes. Gabrielle I
love it." The warrior smiled. She released a long sigh
and rubbed her eyes. "This has been one heck of a
Solstice, hasn’t it?" Xena said conversationally as the
two women put their gifts next to the bed.
has," Gabrielle yawned before quickly apologizing.
on," Xena said hugging the bard and pulling her to the
head of the bed. "It’s been a long day. Let’s get
some rest, okay?"
and snuggled into Xena’s shoulder, using the warrior as a
pillow. She heard the warrior sigh contently. All, for once,
was right with the world and everything that came before
didn’t mean as much as their future to come.
still the best gift I’ve ever received Gabrielle," Xena
whispered, kissing the amazon affectionately on top of the
head. "Happy Solstice."
Solstice Xena," the bard replied. Safe and warm in the
warrior’s arms she finally drifted off to sleep.
And as Xena
listened to the deep breathes of the bard she gave a silent
prayer and gave thanks to whatever Gods had brought them
together. Soon she too closed her eyes and felt herself
drifting into Morpheus realm. A smile hung on her lips and
with her last waking thought she went back to the day’s
activities. It had been years since she had such a glorious
"A very happy
solstice indeed," Xena whispered before she drifted off